Wise up, Pyongyang

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Wise up, Pyongyang

North Korea has said it will strictly restrict cross-border passage from Dec.1 and has refused to allow collection of soil samples for nuclear verification.

Pyongyang also said it will shut down communication channels between the two Koreas.

By issuing multiple simultaneous threats to South Korea and the United States, the North is again deploying its trademark brinkmanship. However, we must warn the North that its reckless threats will return to haunt Pyongyang.

The North cited the South Korean government’s reluctance to implement the June 15 and Oct. 4 agreements from the inter-Korean summits as grounds for its new threats against Seoul.

It is the South Korean government’s basic position that all existing inter-Korean agreements should be respected and that the two Koreas should sit down to discuss how to implement the two accords.

For the Lee Myung-bak administration, which pledged it would give no more support to the North unless there was some level of reciprocity, the North is dangerously close to overstepping the line.

Yet Pyongyang still demands that the South fully implement the two agreements. This is nothing more than reckless obstinacy.

Of the projects agreed under the Oct. 4 accord, the construction of a joint shipbuilding complex was agreed without a single site inspection.

The operation of the cross-border cargo trains has become a joke because there are no stations and nothing much to transport between the two Koreas.

The agreed repairs to the railroads between Kaesong and Sinuiju in the North requires an astronomical amount of money.

Although the dilemmas are clear, the North is forcing the South to implement the agreements, which is nothing more than an attempt to tame the South Korean government. Pyongyang wants to try to influence the South Korean administration as it did with the Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun administrations. And it wants the South’s aid package as well.

This is a miscalculation.

It was recently confirmed by U.S. news reports that North Korea is experiencing another severe food crisis. A government with the minimum degree of common sense should have devised measures to rescue its people.

However, the North has rejected the South’s food aid offers and now it wants to stop the Kaesong Industrial Complex project, where 100,000 North Koreans are employed.

Is the North out of its mind?

Pyongyang must remember that even South Koreans with favorable views of the North will be angered by this attitude.

The North’s refusal to provide soil samples for nuclear verification shows its intention to negotiate directly with the incoming Obama administration. That, however, is a vain tactic.

The incoming Obama administration has said it will talk to the North, but made clear that nuclear verification is essential. There is no way the Obama administration will conduct verification without soil samples.

Even if North Korea achieves a compromise, it will take more time for the North to realize its desperate wish to attract international investment. Pyongyang must think wisely at this point.

It is time for Seoul to carefully plan its next move so that the situation will not grow worse. The South Korean government has been reluctant to provide the materials to normalize communication lines between the two Koreas’ militaries, but it belatedly offered those materials to the North yesterday.

Seoul also needs to act more decisively to stop civic groups from sending anti-Pyongyang leaflets to the North.
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